David stood on the beach and watched the waves breaking on the sand. It was late in the day, the sun was beginning to lower itself into its nightly resting place, and he could feel the breeze dropping a few degrees as the air ruffled his brown hair.
He was standing with his feet at the very edge of the water and with each break he could feel the cold fingers of the ocean wrap themselves around his toes. He stepped forward, enjoying the feel of the swirling water and the gritty sand on the bottoms of his feet.
It was beautiful. The water reflecting the sun, the white of the breakers, the dip and dive of the birds who called this place home.
It was late in the day and many of the other tourists had already packed up, discussing where they would get tonight’s crab legs or hush puppies, umbrellas and blankets dangling from their hands.
But he was still there, taking it all in.
Vacation. A much needed one after the chaos of the past few months.
David looked down at the sand next to him and studied the indentions a pair of small feet had made. The footsteps were running away from him further up the sand and he followed their quiet destruction until he saw the small boy who had made them.
Sean was sitting near the water, pushing sand up around him, trying to build a wall against the encroaching ocean. The water was determined to get to the boy though but Sean continued to fight back, pushing more and more sand to his sides and feet. David smiled at his son and began walking towards him.
Moira had left three months ago. Packed her bags and took off for her new job across the sea. Took off and left her confused husband and sad son behind. He still did not understand any of it. How could someone change their mind after a decade of marriage and decide to focus on their career more, even after having a child. She kept saying it was for the best, that she could give Sean the life David was unable to on his teaching salary. He knew they had been struggling to make ends meet and when he approached her about selling the house and moving into an apartment, he was caught off-guard when she dropped the bomb about her new P.R. position.
And about wanting a divorce.
Of course, selling the house made perfect sense to her then.
David now could hear Sean’s giggling as the water broke through the sand and tickled his toes.
He walked over to his son, studying his profile in the evening sunlight and thinking about how lucky he was to have such a sweet boy. Sean would be with him until the end of the month and then he was to visit his mother on the island for a bit before school started.
Moira had agreed, reluctantly, to let Sean stay with David and finish out the school year. Sean had already visited his mom twice in the past few months. With her new income, round trip tickets were easily affordable.
It hurt David a bit to hear his son rave about Hawaii, about the palm trees and white sand, about how his mother was able to borrow the resort’s (her employer’s) boat whenever she wanted and take him out onto the deep, blue ocean.
He sometimes wondered if it would be better if Sean were to stay with his mother. Instead of subjecting him to the endless back and forth between the two parents.
But it was just so hard....
He couldn’t turn that part of himself off that would enable him to follow through with letting Sean go for good. That seamless part inside of him that loved his boy and could not bear to be away from him.
He ached for Sean. Ached with the knowledge that the two people his son trusted most had let him down.
He looked down at the boy. “What are you doing, little man?”
Sean giggled some more and began to re-build the retaining wall encircling him.
“I’m trying to stop the water, Dad. I have to keep it back.” He pushed gobs of sand forward with his small hands, pushing against the hurrying surf that broke against the wet sand and kept knocking it down.
“I have to protect myself,” Sean squealed. “I have to protect myself from the evil water! Help me, daddy! Protect me!”
David reached down and plucked his son from the falling sand and wet surf. Sean laughed heartily as his dad swung him around and around.
“I’ll protect you!” David called into the soft hands of the ocean breeze. “I’ll protect you!”
The steady unbroken beep of the monitor dispersed the old memory from David’s thoughts. There was no more pulsing, rhythmic sound to accompany the beating of Sean’s heart.
It took a second for it to register. No beeping meant no heartbeat. No heartbeat meant that Sean was….
David jerked back to the present. The crash team worked quickly around the still body of Sean. He couldn’t discern any features of the people in the room, only the outlines, his vision blurred by the many tears that now began to flood his eyes.
“Mr. Marks! Get back please. Give us some room!”
He felt Nurse Megan’s steady hands guide him back to one of the room’s dark corners. Sean was blocked from his eyesight by the team surrounding the bed.
David heard the somewhat familiar “Clear!” and then a break in the steady drone of the monitor before the flatline beeping continued.
“No,” David whispered.
The glare of the bright lights struck Moira in the face and she unleashed another scream of intense pain.
The scream bounced off the white walls of the large room.
But it was a good pain.
Sweat poured down across her brow and David leaned into her vision, lovingly wiping the dampness away with a small cool cloth.
“You’re doing great, honey. You are doing so well.” He smiled down at her and wiped more of her drenched forehead clean.
Moira returned the smile and then readied herself for another jab of the sharp pain that had been her constant companion for the past three hours.
The doctor lifted his head from between Moira’s splayed legs and gave a thumbs up.
“It’s almost here, Moira. Just a little bit more and it’ll be through. Now give me one more BIG push,” his voice muffled through the mask covering his mouth and nose. He ducked back between Moira’s legs. “Now push! Push down hard!”
David and one of the nurses each grabbed Moira’s hands and steadied her as she lifted her upper body up and bore down with all her might.
The pressure was too much and Moira’s head began to swim, spots jumping through the bright light of her vision. She let loose a mighty yell of determination as David urged his wife on.
There was a tremendous sensation of weight on her lower body and Moira’s breath caught in her lungs. And then suddenly the weight disappeared.
Moira answered the sudden release with a mighty inhalation. She fell back against the bed as David leaned over her again. His face was full of concern and he had Moira’s hand in a vise-like grip.
Another cry filled the room.
And Moira found herself smiling.
“It’s a boy!”
Her eyes filled with new tears, these not from the epic pain earlier, but of a joy she had never known before this very moment.
David approached her, holding a bundle of blankets in his arms.
“You did it. You did it, sweetheart. Look at what you did.” He smiled down at her before leaning over and displaying the blanket’s contents so that she could see.
The small, round bald head, still wet from the fluids of two bodies sharing life together for the past nine months, moved slightly under her gaze. She reached slowly up and took the small bundle from David’s shaking hands.
Moira gazed down at her son and her heart filled with love.
“Hello, Sean,” she whispered. David kissed the top of her head and she leaned in close to her husband.
I will give you the world, Sean, she thought to herself. I will give you everything you ever need and more.
The small baby opened its eyes and looked up at his parents.
Moira’s eyes grew wet with tears…..
…..she blinked several times, trying to clear the moisture blinding her.
Something was off.
She blinked again and this time managed to focus her blurred sight. She was lying on her right side, which was soaked to the bone. Moira turned her head towards the ground. Water flowed around the side of the wrecked car. The side window was busted and her door crumpled inward, crowding against her ribs. She tried to push herself up and a blast of sharp pain shot through her side.
Outside, through the pouring rain that beat against the car’s metal surface, something roared in answer.
She stopped and turned her head upward towards the sky.
Julia was lying limp, dangling down towards Moira. She was held in place with her seatbelt. Moira reached a hand up and lightly touched the young girl’s shoulder.
“Julia,” she whispered. The girl groaned slightly. Blood dripped from a cut on her forehead.
Moira unhooked her seatbelt. Again the pain hit her side. Broken ribs, she thought to herself. Must be broken ribs.
She willed herself up into a sitting position, her knees screaming at her along with the ribs. She grabbed Julia from around her waist and unhooked the girl’s seatbelt. Immediately Julia’s full weight fell against Moira. Moira eased her back against the seats. Julia released another groan and her eyelids flickered and then closed again.
Leaning back against Julia to hold her in place, Moira turned to the broken windshield. Half of it had folded over onto itself and the whole thing was coming loose from the car. Moira lashed out with her leg and kicked the windshield. Once, twice. Each time her knees and ribs begging her to quit.
The windshield fell from it’s frame and toppled out into the ditch. Rain quickly began pelting her face and arms. She reached back and ducked her head under Julia’s arm. Slowly, she dragged the unconscious girl from the wreckage and to the steep side of the ditch, making sure they were clear of the flowing water.
A dark shadow loomed over both women and Moira looked up at the monstrosity that had knocked the car from the road. As it slithered past. large scales glimmered in the falling rain. She could see the outline of the huge reptilian head through the white wet fog.
Moira stood up and looked in the direction they had been driving, towards where the hospital lay. Then she knelt down and shook Julia. The girl exhaled deeply and her eyes snapped open and stared at Moira.
Moira shouted through the rain: “I need to get Sean! I need to protect him!”
The young boy flicked the long black hair from his eyes and stared at the white linoleum floor. His bare feet touched the cold floor, but he did not feel it. In fact, he did not feel anything below his waist. The tumors that riddled his body had closed off those nerve bundles that enabled sensation to travel from his lower extremities to his brain.
He was paralyzed. The wheelchair sitting nearby a painful reminder of this.
His name was Grayson. He had just turned sixteen and this was his seventh hospital in three years.
The doctors were not able to help him. They did not know what was wrong with him. They did not know how to cure him, had no idea what was causing the tumors to continue to grow all over his body. They kept treating them with radiation, over and over again, leaving the boy weakened and sick from the constant irritation.
But nothing worked.
So he bounced from place to place, from one experimental trial to another, piling hope upon hope, trying to outrace the despair that came with each new transfer.
Grayson stared at the floor.
And then he closed his eyes.
The light filtering through his eyelids changed and he felt a rush of wind blow through his hair.
He opened his eyes again. The floor was gone.
His feet touched stone.
And he could feel the rough texture of the rock’s cut surface.
Grayson stood from the bed, which had made the transition with him, and turned to the immense bright light that emanated from behind.
A large golden door stood before the boy. It was a double door, twenty feet tall and ten feet wide. The light came from the door; its surface flickering with golden fire.
Grayson walked around the bed and stepped towards the structure. It stood alone. No walls extruded from either side of it, no steps leading to its threshold.
Suddenly, the light grew brighter and the youth had the shield his eyes from it.
He stood with his head down, eyes closed, feeling wave after wave of air wash over him.
Time is running out. The voice entered Grayson’’s mind. The first time it had happened, a while back, was jarring. But now he was used to the intrusion, found comfort in the unfamiliar treble of the voice..
“I know,” he answered in his gruff teenage voice.
The Dragonlord is on the move. He is awakening his armies and now has enough power to change the foundations of each permutation.
“What will he try to do?”
He will try to unite them all. And then rule them.
“I’m trying to gather them together. But...there are so many this time…”
I know, Grayson. And some of them are not ready to leave yet. But their worlds are temporary.
“What about the Breaker?”
He will wake soon. And then many things will happen. Very quickly.
A huge rush of air blanketed the boy again and this time Grayson thrust his chin into it, his eyes still closed. The air was cool and warm all at the same time and it felt good against his skin.
The Dragonlord knows about the Breaker. He is already traveling between the worlds. He is looking for him. He will try to destroy him before the boy comes to power.
“I will get them ready.”
You must warn those who can protect him. You must ensure he awakens. You must get the others ready for transition.
“I hear you.”
They are almost ready. You must guide them, strengthen them. When the time comes…..
“When the time comes, I will protect them. I will protect them all.”
The light around the door grew brighter and brighter until it disappeared within the illumination.
Grayson opened his eyes, blinking away the spots left from the blindness.
He was back in his hospital room.
He stared down at the floor where his feet touched the linoleum.
He tried to wiggle his toes.
They did not move.
-End of Intermission #1